by Dr Varma Deyalsingh
The former head of Slovakia‘s prosecutor’s office was recently jailed for accepting bribes to release a crime boss from prison and leaking information from the prosecutor’s office. In 2018, Slovakia was ranked one of the most corrupt countries in the EU. Andrej Kiska, the country’s president at the time, called Slovakia a “mafia state.” Journalist Jan Kuciak, who had been investigating links between organised crime and politicians, was recently assassinated. As far back as 1996, it was alleged a police officer was murdered by the orders of the then-prime minister. Since 2020, the Slovakian government has embarked on an ongoing campaign to eradicate corruption and has brought dozens of high-ranking officials to justice, including the former attorney general and ex-chiefs of police and tax administration.
Our nation has its fair share of corruption scandals. We presently have a former Attorney General before the courts and had a previous AG, Selwyn Richardson (under both PNM and NAR), assassinated, while police officer Bernadette James was also killed. During the 1990 attempted coup inquiry, Jamaal Shabazz said Mr Richardson was attempting to cover up a cocaine discovery and James was killed because she witnessed this.
It was reported persons who assassinated the former AG were themselves killed and the person who hired them was killed by the AKS in 1997.
In 1996, AG Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj said Richardson was killed because he was an “indefatigable foe in the fight against the drug trade, and drug lords had made it their business to order a hit on his life.”
Sometimes, we don’t know what to believe, we are given different narratives and people usually grab on to the one which feeds their own beliefs.
Emailgate had major allegations that supporters of the UNC and PNM took opposite positions.
We saw a similar pattern emerge in LATT’s no-confidence vote on our present AG.
Columnist Raffique Shah mentioned the politics and race factor: ”Nothing defined the great dividing line in this country… while there was an element of race in the proceedings, it was not the only, or even the main factor that drove the campaign to oust the AG. It was all political—a straight case of who in the profession supported the incumbent PNM Government, or who supported the Opposition UNC.”
The Opposition leader mentioned the economic factor with, “beggars and eat ah food lawyers singing for their supper so they can continue to pocket millions from the State for legal fees.” Some persons, she said, may have come out to support their “friend” thinking he may be the best person to occupy office despite his memory lapse.
In 2017, when LATT appointed a committee chaired to review allegations against CJ Archie, Israel Khan SC noted members of the Masonic Lodge can influence deliberations. “It’s well known throughout the Western world that members of the Masonic Lodge have pledged their lives to protect one another and would breach all ethics and principles of law to assist each other in time of need ….will have a fundamental objection, if he (the CJ) is a member of the Masonic Lodge, and the two silks retained by LATT are members also.”
Was this also another factor in the voting?
LATT and its deliberations will always be questioned and criticised by politicians. They keep getting their fair share from our present PM.
Even then-PM Kamla Persad-Bissessar was critical when Armour was elected president of LATT. She said with the legal advice he had given to Dr Rowley, indicating that Faris Al-Rawi had not committed any act of professional misconduct, he should not have been presiding over the LATT, where he would have to adjudicate such.
In July 2016, there was a collapse of a special general meeting of LATT when 25 members moved a motion of no confidence in then-president Armour, for failing to consult with members on the SSA Bill before meeting with the AG. It was mainly opposition-linked attorneys who fuelled this and in the process, some attorneys withdrew support, saying they had no intention to move a vote of no confidence against anyone.
One week ago, the DPP decided to discontinue charges against two businessmen who were accused of obstructing police officers in their arrest of activist Inshan Ishmael in 2017. Ishmael won his case for wrongful arrest, false imprisonment and malicious prosecution, after the Office of the Attorney General failed to defend it. Deputy DPP George Busby was careful to note that his office was not admitting that Ishmael’s arrest was unlawful, as it could not explain why the lawsuit was not defended by the AG’s Office.
We need answers. We have had allegations before where court matters against various state board members started by the PP were discontinued by AG Al-Rawi. Before this, we witnessed the then-AG Anand Ramlogan not appealing Justice Ronnie Boodoosingh’s judgment in the extradition case involving the individuals in the Piarco Airport Corruption fiasco. We keep hearing one side claiming the AG was protecting “their people” while the other side was saying “malicious prosecution.”
It seems the taxpayers don’t know what or who to believe anymore and sometimes it seems the only winners are the high-priced attorneys.